One deacon’s story: “Really, what I do is listen…”

Writer Tom Loewy from the Galesburg Register-Mail in Illinois spent some time recently chatting with a deacon, and shared part of the conversation:

If you can take the time to listen, you learn something knew every day. And you are fortunate to be given the opportunity to hear.

That fact was hammered home as I listened to Jim Haneghan while sitting inside Spudos just before Thursday’s lunch rush.

Haneghan is 67 years old and has been an ordained deacon in the Catholic church for 15 years. For more than eight years, he’s worked as a chaplin for OSF Homecare’s hospice program.

Haneghan was born in Galesburg, baptized at St. Patrick’s Church and has lived his entire life in his hometown…

…“I was self-employed for years,” Haneghan explained. “And then one day Donna Medina from over at OSF called me and asked if I would be interested in becoming the chaplin for the hospice program. Nursing the sick had been part of what I was doing for years, so it seemed like a good fit.”

Haneghan said his role as chaplin for the dying has been “a blessing.”

“To be able to talk with people in their last days, weeks and months of their lives has been a tremendous experience,” he said. “Really what I do is listen.

“People tell me about their lives. I listen to all kinds of people — from very devout Christians to people who don’t believe in anything. But I find that most often, no matter if the person has faith or not, they want to reflect back on their lives. It’s an unbelievable experience — something of an honor, I think — to be the one listening to them.”

Haneghan reflected on how his role as a hospice chaplain impacted his life.

“One thing that has been reaffirmed for me is how precious life is. This life doesn’t go on forever. Working in hospice has helped me grow in my faith and I truly try to live every day as if it’s my last.

“I’m not a hospice chaplin trying to convert anyone. I’ve heard it said that all the good people aren’t in church on Sunday morning. And that’s true. I’m there to give people a chance to talk about there lives.”

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